Kicking Off 2023

A preview of the positive changes ahead for Maryland’s craft alcohol manufacturers.

There has been a lot happening over the past several months and most of it is really good news for craft alcohol manufacturers in Maryland!

Where to begin? Let us start with Grow and Fortify. This organization has been the backbone of Maryland’s craft alcohol organizations from the Brewer’s Association of Maryland, the Maryland Wineries Association, to the Distiller’s Guild. They have championed a level playing field for craft alcohol manufacturers in the legislature, while steadfastly encouraging value added agriculture in the Free State.  Always embracing the history behind these industries, it is literally their mission…

Cultivating an environment where value-added agricultural producers, startups, operators and growers innovate and thrive.

They grow the organizations & businesses that fortify Maryland’s agricultural heritage while helping them create a sustainable future. This has not gone unnoticed, and the team behind Grow & Fortify has done an amazing job of living up to their mission and keeping their promises. Notably, the organization’s founder and familiar face Kevin Atticks, was appointed Secretary of Agriculture by incoming Governor We Moore. He could not have made a better choice. There is no one in the state more familiar with the issues facing this industry and every business impacted by agriculture than Kevin Atticks. His passion and determination to make sure Maryland does not abandon its agricultural underpinnings, while finding new ways to foment the growth of this industry in innovative and truly exciting new ways in unparalleled. He will leave an indelible mark on the state’s history and help push Maryland to the forefront, moving beyond the obstacles, entrenchment and inaction that has so often plagued the department and stymied the growth of the industry.

His successor, Janna Howley is most capable, and a brilliant choice to skillfully lead Grow & Fortify for many years to come. Prioritizing the industries we literally cannot live without, and fighting for their symbiotic partners, our farmers and craft alcohol manufacturers will thrive under Howley’s tenure.

Other news that is brewing includes the impending move of Checkerspot Brewing from the Sharp Street location across Russell Street to 1421 Ridgely.  They will continue to serve the pre- and post-game crowds that flock regularly throughout the year for Ravens and Orioles games. The new facility, a former printing business, is vastly larger at 24,000 sf to accommodate growth, and an expansive the tap room with open seating. Coupled with the 2023 move, brewery owners Rob and Judy Neff took top honors in the 11th annual Sam Adams Building the American Dream Challenge. Checkerspot was not only crowned at the GABF in Colorado this past fall, they will collaborate with Jim Koch’s team this March on a beer using local Maryland malt from Brad Humbert’s Bear Branch Malt, formerly Dark Cloud. They also receive mentoring and financial support, which could not have come at a better time for the brewery, as the deft guidance has already paid off via architectural planning and equipment.

1427 Ridgely

You may wonder what will become of the former Checkerspot location. Owner Sam Himmelrich is purchasing the brewery “as is” including all equipment, hoping to lure a new team to begin brewing in the facility in 2023.  There may be plenty of interest from aspiring brewery owners to assume control of the turn-key facility. Be on the lookout for more minority, women and Veteran brewers throwing their hats into the ring as Maryland is poised for growth in this regard with the newly elected leaders vowing to provide greater opportunity and  structural support for the these entrepreneurs.  

Despite the trials of the pandemic, soaring inflation and recessionary pressures along with continued supply chain issues, Maryland still has the driving undercurrent of increasing brewery offerings in the state. Take a look at the breweries in planning. Watch for announcements here and from the Brewers Association about the progress these fearless entrepreneurs are making.

Nationally, independent craft breweries have seen a nearly 8% rise in sales (nearly 25 million bbls) with total breweries topping 9200!  This is encouraging despite the number of breweries that closed during the pandemic, we are on the rise. In Maryland there are more than 120 breweries, ranking 24th in the nation. The $917 million annual economic impact is nothing to sneeze at, but honestly we can do better and I know our talented, motivated Maryland brewers are up to the challenge!

Stay tuned for upcoming events surrounding the March 2023 Women in Beer collaborations!